Growth in a Time of Uncertainty Does South Africa Have a Growth Plan?
"South Africa desperately needs faster economic growth. The difficult global environment and the many unknowns involved in achieving higher growth in any country make this challenging. But it is not impossible and the international climate provides opportunities as well as threats. If the country is to grow more quickly, South Africa needs a realistic, workable strategy that has the support of all key constituencies. Little progress is possible with a cabinet as deeply divided on priorities and direction as it is. Higher growth and significantly more employment will require a more open airing, reasoned debate and then resolution of some fundamental issues. What kind of growth is South Africa able to achieve? Has the country been too quick in writing off the possibility of building genuinely labour-intensive industries at scale, and has sufficient consideration been given to the implications of failing to do this? What would a package of reforms comprise that would get South Africa much more growth in this sector at a time when international firms are looking for alternatives to China? How can business, labour and government find common ground so as to work together on a plausible approach to growth? What role for leadership in reconciling divergent views with the national interest? How do we maximize the role of markets and entrepreneurs in moving South Africa to a higher growth path? Are there changes to competition policy that are needed if South Africa is to ensure a robustly competitive domestic market as well as provide the platform for international competitiveness? These are some of the tough choices the country needs to debate openly and then resolve in the national interest. There is no question that economic reform—especially of the labour market—is politically difficult. And it is particularly difficult when those who are likely to resist change have the capacity to disrupt the process and impose costs on others, while those who will benefit are unorganised. It is for these reasons that political leadership is so important in articulating what is in the national interest and leading the process of building trust and securing sufficient consensus about the need for, and direction of, change."